Each person’s immune system is unique, and nothing has showcased this more than the coronavirus. As we have all seen, covid affects people in a myriad of ways. Some people become extremely ill while others have no symptoms whatsoever. (The same goes for the covid vaccines: some have troubling side effects, while others experience none.) While the number of active covid cases has plummeted, I continue to treat patients with long covid complications.
Long covid is a term that refers to a syndrome that may last weeks, months or even years after contracting the SARS-CoV-2 infection. It may involve issues with circulation (heart and kidney), respiration, anxiety, sleep, digestion, nervous system or musculoskeletal (including arthritis). Thus far, women seem more affected than men overall, but studies of the nuances and causality of long covid are underway with millions of dollars allocated to research. Anyone, regardless of the severity of their covid infection, can develop long covid. In my practice, I have seen symptoms ranging from fatigue (sometimes debilitating) and shortness of breath, loss of smell and taste, digestive disturbances(acid reflux and irritable bowel issues), severe rashes and unexplained hive outbreaks, pain, numbness, and nerve damage. (Anxiety and sleep disturbances are an epidemic now, so it’s unclear whether to attribute them to long covid per se.)
In Chinese medicine, covid infections may deplete the body in varying ways. The resulting syndromes are unique to the individual: the virus might cause a deficiency of lung qi if it affects the respiratory system; it might affect the spleen, which governs digestion, muscle tissue and blood production; it might deplete yin, causing a more systemic reaction. Complete recovery is essential, and that requires eating healthy nourishing foods, drinking lots of fluids, and perhaps most importantly, RESTING. Without full recuperation from this complex illness, deeper imbalances may creep in.
Acupuncture may be particularly effective at mitigating the long covid process and enabling true healing. By rebalancing the body’s qi and tonifying any deficiencies manifesting in long covid, patients seem to bounce back from these confounding and often debilitating symptoms. Herbal formulas may enhance the needling treatment effects and if a case is particularly intractable, I often recommend these as a supplement (in tablet form, taken with water). Sometimes the best approach is a combination of eastern and western medicines.
If you or anyone you know has been experiencing troubling symptoms associated with covid-19 or the vaccine, you may qualify to participate in a research study: